Super Mario is back in another highly imaginative mushroom-stomping adventure. This time in 3D. Super Mario 3D Land is the first original Mario title for Nintendo 3DS. The good news is that it’s been worth the wait. The red-capped plumber always delivers, and here he is in a game worthy of owning a 3DS for alone, says Stephen Ebert.
The Nintendo 3DS has been available since February this year. A whole nine months on and only now we’re seeing the first original Mario title to launch on Nintendo’s new handheld. The Super Mario games have always been incredibly popular, and Super Mario 3D Land is a nutshell of everything that makes them so great.
Story-wise Mario must once again rescue Peach from the claws of his iconic reptilian foe Bowser. Same old story, perhaps, but when you’ve got platforming this good, it doesn’t matter. Super Mario 3D Land feels like the best bits of Mario games old and new crammed onto the 3DS.
A blend of original Super Mario style platforming mixed in with elements of the Super Mario Galaxy games makes for a wonderful experience. Nostalgia also proves a not-so-secret weapon. Listen closely and you’ll hear music from Super Mario Bros 3 played in many of the games levels. All the classic baddies appear: Goombas, Koopa Troopa tortoises, Bullet Bills and more. The Raccoon-tailed Tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros. 3 also makes an appearance, giving Mario the power to glide gracefully onto trickily placed platforms.
Super Mario Land 3D also does new very well. One power-up gives Mario the ability to fling boomerangs. Another transforms Mario into a propeller block with the ability to fly for short periods. Both prove useful in their own way, either to collect stars placed at difficult-to-reach points or make getting past some of the game’s baddies easier.
Levels are short and designed to be played in bursts. Most can be cleared within five minutes, but each is stuffed with platforming action that never stops being fun. There’s always something to do: a moving platform to time your jump on, a lava-filled chasm to perform a death-defying leap across, or a carefully placed item to risk life and limb for. Throw in baddies, power-ups and collectible stars and there’s nothing like it on any handheld platform.
This is a 3D game that plays like a 2D platformer – and all the better for it. The visual 3D effect itself isn’t essential to the overall experience, although there are some nice wow moments where the 3D slider effect impresses by creating neat optical illusions.
Super Mario 3D Land isn’t difficult by any means. Its seven worlds can be cleared in a matter of a few hours. But rush through them and you won’t have enough stars to unlock the final levels. Here’s where Super Mario 3D Land comes into its own. The need to revisit past levels to find them requires even more exploring by the player.
The level design really comes to the fore, along with the realisation that the levels are bigger, and better designed than first appeared. And when you think you’ve played all Super Mario 3D Land has to offer, Nintendo serves up twice the fun – with new worlds that are tougher, more satisfying and more fun. There’s plenty of meat in this sandwich to keep all Mario fans chuffed to bits and playing on for longer than expected.
There really is little bad to say about Mario’s latest adventure. The series has been a bastion of platforming brilliance – showing pretenders how it is done. Super Mario 3D Land is no exception. Super Mario 3D Land may rehash the traditional Mario formula, but when nobody else does it better, there is very little that needs changing. Super Mario 3D Land is another reminder never to write Nintendo off when it comes to producing some of the finest gaming experiences around. There has not been a better handheld platformer all year.
With some of the best platform style gameplay around, Super Mario 3D Land lives up to the lofty mushroom-packed heights of previous Super Mario Bros. games. Super Mario 3D Land is one title worth owning a Nintendo 3DS for alone.
[This review has been reproduced from an article originally written by myself for The Gadget Show in December 2011]